Melbourne rallies for trains, against tollways

Monday, July 7, 2014

More than 2000 people marched in Melbourne on June 28 to protest the proposed East West Link motorway.

The East West Link is to be a partially tunnelled toll road that would give commuters crossing the Yarra River an alternative to the currently overloaded West Gate Bridge.

Protesters, however, said the East West Link will be excessively costly, will contribute to pollution and will generate far fewer jobs than an equivalent public transport project. Demonstrators also voiced concerns that the East West Link would erode Melbourne’s culture of public transport.

Support for public transport projects is higher than that for the East West Link. The Age reported on March 2 that 24% saw the East West link as the most important infrastructure project compared with 42% who favoured the metro link railway as most important.

The protest gathered at the State Library of Victoria and travelled down Swanston Street to Flinders Street Station, one of Melbourne’s central transport hubs.

Attendees heard speeches from political and community figures including deputy leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, and Socialist Alliance councillor for Moreland, Sue Bolton.

Flemington resident Karia Mohammed told the rally that the only green space for 3500 public housing residents in the suburb of Debney Park, that was recently refurbished at a cost of $3 million and includes a community centre and community garden, would be destroyed by the project. She said the government must “think about the community” and urged the crowd to “stand together to stop this tunnel”.

Other speakers included Parkville resident Christine Di Muccio, who spoke of the threatened destruction of Royal Park, Kat Galea from the Tunnel Picket campaign group, and Danae Bosler from Public Transport Not Traffic.

The march formed part of a protracted and often militant struggle against the project, in which one protester at one of the pickets of drilling sites chained himself by the neck to a mobile drilling rig.

Socialist Party councillor for Yarra Steve Jolly told the rally that the next period in the campaign was crucial: “Over the next few weeks and months, one of two things is going to happen. Either the state government will push us aside, homes will be destroyed, parks will be wrecked. Or alternatively, we will win with the most magnificent campaign this city has ever seen”.

From GLW issue 1015